The cracks had been showing for some weeks but the timing of Andy Murray’s announcement that he was ending his coaching relationship with Amelie Mauresmo was a little surprising.
As he heads into the busiest four months of his year, he will have Jamie Delgado at his side as coach, but the experienced voice of Mauresmo, a two-time grand slam champion and former world No 1, will be long gone. They had worked together for two years, but, in truth, Mauresmo has spent very little time with Team Murray since last summer.
After Wimbledon last year, she took four months off for maternity leave and only returned to the fold at the very end of the season. This year, she was in Melbourne as Murray reached the Australian Open final and spent a few days with him in Miami where he crashed out in the third round. She did come to Madrid last week, but save one, long heart-to-heart with her charge, she was there solely on Fed Cup duty in her role as the France captain.
This was not the sort of full-time commitment Murray needed from his main advisor.
Murray clearly enjoyed Mauresmo’s company and she was obviously very fond of him but to be the best in any sport, a player has to be ruthless and think only of himself.
Murray has always wanted his coach to be available to him whenever and wherever he needed them; with her Fed Cup work and, as the mother of a nine-month-old son, the Frenchwoman had other priorities.
So, with the French Open looming large, Murray will now continue his clay-court season in Rome at the Italian Open this week with only Delgado to guide him.
It did not seem to harm his form in last week when, despite losing the Mutua Madrid Open final 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to Novak Djokovic, he took a good deal of comfort from the fact that his clay-court game was in prime condition. It was just the business of beating Djokovic that was the problem.
“It’s like nit-picking but against the best players, to win the biggest tournaments, those couple of games that I talk about, they are important,” Murray said.
“Whereas I wasn’t able to hold at 3-2 [in the third set] when I didn’t play a good game, Novak didn’t play a good game at 5-3 but managed to serve well. I made a few errors there on the break points and he came through.
“I just need to try and not have little games like that. It can happen but it’s really important against the best players to try to have as few as possible. “I made mistakes behind my serve. Just making him work every point is very important.
“I know what it’s like myself when you get given a bunch of free points – it’s great, fantastic. But you have to work all the time. It’s tough and I could have done that a little bit better.”
Having identified the problem and knowing that he is playing extremely well on the clay this year, the Scot is hopeful that he improve again this week in Rome.
He just needs to make sure he is up for the fight in his opening match and then, he thinks, everything should fall into place.
“I think the first match is really important – to try to get through that one,” he said. “And if I can, there’s no reason why I can’t have a good week there.
“Obviously, it was a big win for me on Saturday against Rafa [Nadal], I’m a little bit down just now after the final. So go to different conditions in Rome, it would be easy to come out a little bit flat.
“I don’t want that to happen there. I just need to try to get through the first one and build from there.”